SC rejects all petitions seeking 100% verification of EVM votes with their VVPAT slips

SC has directed the EC to seal symbol-loading units for 45 days after symbols are loaded to EVMs.
Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of IndiaFile Photo | PTI

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court rejected the batch of petitions seeking directions to the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the Centre to ensure that voters can verify through VVPATs that their vote has been "counted as recorded" on Friday.

A two-judge bench of the top court, led by Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Dipankar Dutta, pronounced the judgement on a number of petitions including NGO, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and others.

The verdict comes a big setback for the petitioners, who had moved the SC seeking appropriate directions in the case.

Delivering the verdict, Justice Khanna said, there are two judgments, these were of concurring view.

"We have elaborately discussed the protocols, technical aspects. We have rejected all the pleas," Justice Khanna said.

The top court passed two directions in the batch of pleas.

The first direction is after the completion of symbol loading process, the Symbol Loading Unit (SLU) should be sealed.

The SLU should be stored at least for 45 days. The second direction would be the burnt memory in the microcontroller EVM shall be checked by a team of engineers after the declaration of results on a request by candidates in serial numbers 2 and 3, such a request to be made within 7 days after the declaration of results.

The apex court in its verdict said that the expenses for the verification (of the program) to be borne by the candidates making the request, in case the EVM is found to be tampered, the expenses will be refunded.

"Blindly distrusting a system can lead to unwarranted suspicions," Justice Datta said.

The apex court also asked the ECI to examine the suggestion for a electronic machine for vote counting the paper slips and whether along with the symbol there can be a bar code for each party.

The apex court had on Wednesday reserved the verdict on the batch of pleas after hearing extensively from the petitioners, ECI and other respective parties.

Supreme Court of India
EVM-VVPAT verification: SC reserves verdict after noting EC's answers to queries

During the hearing on Wednesday, the bench, was apprised by an official from the ECI about how the EVMs and VVPATs along with its detailed know how of the control unit panel and their security features. The ECI consistently told and made it clear to the apex court that the EVMs cannot be tampered with under any circumstance and that the complete counting of the VVPAT slips was not practically feasible.

The ECI offcial also said that the EVMs are standalone machines and they could not be tampered with.

"The VVPATs could also not be tampered with," the offcial said.

A bench initially had reserved judgment on the petitions on April 18 after two days of hearing. The Court listed the petitions again on April 24 to seek certain technical clarifications from the ECI, which the commission told it.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan appearing for one of the petitioners, argued that the flash memory of Micro Control Units can be reprogrammed and tampered with.

The apex court asked this to ECI official and wanted some clarification on this. So the ECI official clarified that it was wrong to say that the Micro Control Units can be reprogrammed.

"We are not the controlling authority of another constitutional authority. We cannot control the elections," the top court said.

In one of its hearings, the court observed that everything could not be seen in a suspicious manner.

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